Port Cros - Close to paradise
Port-Cros National Park is a remote island and marine national park found off the coast of Toulon. All 690 acres of land on the island are protected and combine to make a picture-perfect landscape. Turquoise lapping water, lush green forest, and the Mediterranean sun all combine to make Port-Cros a paradise.
The island forms part of the Mediterranean island group known as the Illes d’Hyeres. It is the neighboring island of Ile du Levant.
Formerly the island of Port-Cros went by ‘Messea’ meaning ‘Middle Island’ in ancient Greek. While the island’s name derives from Greek origins, Roman tombs found dotted across the land suggest there may have once been a Roman colony on the island. Over the centuries, Port Cros passed from one hand to another. Finally, the Henry family acquired it in the 19th century. In the decades that followed, the island would come under multiple attacks. During World War II, the German garrison fought off American and Canadian attackers for two days before surrendering the island on 17th August 1944.
When Madame Henry died in 1966, she left the island to the French government. She instructed them to transform it into a National Park. In 1963, Port-Cros became a registered national park. Today it’s open to the general public all year round and visitors get to admire the park in its natural state.
Things to Do
Port-Cros is famous for its clear blue waters and rocky coastline. Subsequently, scuba diving, snorkeling, and hiking are three of the most popular past times. When it comes to hiking, there are several routes to choose from. All hikes on the island vary in difficulty and offer different terrain.
If you’re a new hiker and up for a challenge, opt to hike along the South-West coast. You’ll find yourself surrounded by flora as the park is home to over 600 species of plant. This route is also known as the Circuit des Cretes and takes in the very best of the islands forest, coastline, and rocky outcrops. Start from Port Cros town center and head south on a circular route that should take around 4-hours and ranks medium on the difficulty scale.
To immerse yourself in more plant life, join the Sentier des Plants route, an aromatic trail that leads through fields of wild lavender fields. The course is around 2.5 miles long and leads to Plage de la Palud beach on the islands northern coast. As you walk, keep your eyes peeled for the small plaques dotted along the trail. Each plaque contains information on the variety of plant species in the vicinity.
Alternatively, head to the northern coast of the island and visit Fort de l’Estissac on foot. This 17th-century fort became under attack by the English during WWI, yet the remains of the tower are still intact today. If you’re interested in history, this route comes highly recommended.
After a long day hiking around the island, you might want to retire to a soft sand beach and enjoy the sunset. Plage de la Palud is the ideal destination to relax come evening, and even though it’s a 45-minute walk from Port Cros town center, it’s worth the visit. If your feet are weary from a day of walking, consider renting a boat and sailing to the cove for an afternoon. The beach is particularly beautiful at sunset.
Best dives in Port-Cros National Park
The waters around Port-Cros island make for some fantastic diving! Dive sites in the vicinity include shipwrecks and dramatic drop-offs, both of which teem with a diverse array of marine life. Expect to see barracudas, nudibranchs, octopi, crabs, and more when diving into the waters of this pristine nature reserve.
One of the island’s most popular dive sites is La Gabinière. This rocky islet sits at the heart of the most important marine reserve in Europe and is home to dense and diverse marine life. The site is so big that you can split it into three separate dives, one of which is considered technical due to the great depth and strong current. Snappers, scorpionfish, and sea spiders are just some of La Gabinière’s native residents.
If you’re a beginner scuba diver, consider forgoing La Gabinère and heading Les Dalles de Bagad. This particular dive site has a maximum depth of 12 meters and is mostly sheltered from the wind. More experienced divers can explore the strong currents of La Pointe de la Croix dive site. With this in mind, note that there a handful of scuba diving schools in Toulon and along the coast. All schools cater to new divers and well-seasoned divers looking to improve their skills.
Dining on Port-Cros
There are a handful of restaurants in the port area of Port-Cros if you’re on the island and looking to dine. However, they’re not always open. For this reason, we’d recommend that you take care of your own refreshments. Whatsmore, you’ll likely want to leave Port-Cros town behind and head deeper into the island. With this in mind, consider packing a picnic. Alternatively, bring food from the mainland to enjoy on your travels. For the ultimate experience on the island, charter a yacht, and enjoy a cooked lunch on the deck from your mooring.
As one of only ten national parks in France, and the first land-based and aquatic park in Europe, Port Cro has a lot to live up to. Clearly the park has excelled itself. In spite of being a popular day-trip destination for visitors of the French Riviera, it has also managed to retain its original charm and beauty.
Ferries depart to Port-Cros from Saint-Pierre Marina in Hyeres. Departure times vary depending on the time of year and the weather conditions on the day. If you’re planning a trip to the national park, why not let FranceRent handle your transfers? That way, you can rest easy that your vacation will run smoothly. You just have to sit back and enjoy the comforts of luxury travel. Want to arrive on Port-Cros island in style? Consider chartering a yacht for the day or landing in Hyeres in a private helicopter.
Top activities on Cote d'Azur
The scenic stretch of coastline known as the Cote d’Azur winds its way along France’s south coast from Saint Tropez to Menton, encompassing the chic towns of Cannes, Nice, and Monaco along the way. The area is known as a playground for the rich and famous, and a glamorous holiday destination for those looking to soak up the very best of the French Riviera. When it comes to Cote d’Azur attractions, there are plenty of things to do and places to visit along the coast to keep all character types entertained. Whether you’re exploring Nice’s charming Old Town on a free walking tour, people-watching at Monte Carlo Harbor, or admiring 19th-century art in Cannes, the Cote d’Azur doesn’t disappoint.
Nightlife on the French Riviera - Cote d'Azur
The French Riviera is renowned for its glitz and glam appeal, hedonistic summers, and over the top attitude to partying, all of which make it a popular destination with those looking for a lively social scene. Jazz cafes, trendy bars, and glamorous night clubs line the sparkling coast and visitors can choose between splashing the cash at an invite-only beach party or rubbing shoulders with A-listers at one of the best clubs in the world. Whatever your entertainment taste may be, the Cote d’Azur has a little something for everyone.
Shopping on Cote d’Azur
It’s no secret that the South of France is an area well known for its acquired taste in luxury living, and when it comes to shopping this affluent region has a real flair for fashion and a lot to offer for shopaholics. Dare to drag yourself away from the alluring arrondissements of Paris’s fashion district and you’ll be rewarded with a sunsoaked shopping haven on Cote d’Azur and when it comes to shopping, the French Riviera does not disappoint. From upmarket department stores like Galeries Lafayette (whose flagship store you’ll find in Paris) to independent art galleries including the Sheun Gallery in Nice, the array of shopping available on Cote d’Azur covers a variety of tastes and, believe it or not, can be tailored to suit all budgets.
Events and festivals on French Riviera
The Cote d’Azur is abuzz with glitz and glamour all year round but it’s the summer months that really get the party started on France’s sought-after south coast. Events and festivals are held every month and range from theatre performances and music festivals to cinematography celebrations and yacht races. A-listers, millionaires, and outright party people flock to the shores of the Mediterranean for a summer to remember as seaside towns and secluded beaches become the stomping ground for a summer of fun. Below we take a look at some of the best events and festivals on the Côte d’Azur and provide a handy event guide to help you plan your dream trip.
South of France by car
With 71 miles of winding corniche roads, numerous quaint Provincial villages to visit, and endless soft sand beaches to stop at and enjoy some sun-soaking, France’s Cote d’Azur is one of Europe’s dreamiest road trip destinations. Rent a car on the French Riviera and the Mediterranean Sea and the charm of southern France is at your fingertips! On your Riviera road trip, you’ll wind your way around a variety of landscapes, soak up a diverse range of cultures, and enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding coastline. After all, there’s no better way to navigate the coast than to do so with the comfort and freedom of your own vehicle.
Best restaurants on Cote d'Azur - France
Famous for its designer fashion brands, rolling vineyards, and historic monuments, France is a country with a lot to offer but it’s the nation’s gourmet cuisine that draws millions of visitors year after year. French dishes, which are usually full of flavor, made using simple ingredients, and boasting great finesse, have been replicated around the globe by passionate chefs aiming to try their hand at traditional dishes and haute cuisine. Below we’ve looked at some of the best restaurants in the south of France. Whether you’re looking for fine dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant (France is home to the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world) or hearty French cuisine at an authentic bistro, we’ve covered all dining options to suit every taste in this restaurant guide.